cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, January 2010

Calf blankets, round bale unrollers, lamnitis, drug treatments in milk, de-wormers, rescuing a hypothermic calf, the milk-per-acre concept, linebreeding, and anaphylactic shock from vitamins.

By Liz Bawden, NODPA Rep and Newsletter Co-Editor

Added January 11, 2010.

Drought-breaking rains this fall brought on sudden lush pasture growth on a farm located in the Pacific Northwest. The farmer noticed that one of his steers was suffering from sore feet. He suspected acidosis induced laminitis, and asked the group for their insights. Most respondents agreed that the lush quality of the pasture, and relatively low fiber certainly could lead to laminitis; most felt that feeding a low-protein grass hay would be the best treatment. One veterinarian suggested that he pay attention to the possibility of grass tetany in these conditions. It was also suggested that he provide free choice mineral, loose white salt, sodium bicarbonate, and perhaps magnesium (to address the potential for low mag in the lush grass). Another farmer suggested the root cause might be from sole ulcers due to the wet, muddy conditions.

Are drug treatments passed along in milk? There was a thought-provoking discussion on the withholding of milk or meat after the use of certain treatments. Some drugs have the “organic” withdrawal times determined in the NOP regulations, as is the case with Ivermectin, flunixin, and other allowed substances. These have been assigned an arbitrary level of acceptable Maximum Residue Limit (MRL’s). Other routinely used treatments like garlic, aloe, and other botanicals have been regarded as having no withdrawals. Several questions were raised on how to approach this -- the research is certainly lacking as to what compounds are being passed along in the milk of treated animals. And the next question would be where to draw lines... should a cow who has been treated with anything be kept out of the tank? Are any of these compounds a cause for concern? The “on farm” consequences for dumping milk from cows treated with botanical substances would be substantial. And we would be potentially wasting a great deal of good milk. So there were far more questions than answers!

A farmer asked about effective de-wormers for dairy cows. Both farmers who responded suggested Crystal Creek’s product known as Pivot (formerly known as Para-Tek). Another producer shared her experience with a homemade wormer used on some 8 to 10 month calves. She used Black Walnut hulls in vodka to make a tincture, then mixed it with molasses and grain to make it palatable. It seems to work well on the heifers, but a vet offered his advice that Black Walnut should never be used on horses, as it can cause founder.

Milk per acre? The concept of “milk per cow” is a well-known method of measuring a farm’s level of production, but a few farmers were introducing the concept of “milk per acre” as a better tool for measuring the performance of grazing dairies. One farmer put it this way, “I think milk production per cow is pretty much useless as a measure of efficiency. I think milk and meat per acre with an adjustment for the amount of purchased feed and other outside inputs might be a much better way to measure it.”

A farmer shared his success in rescuing a hypothermic calf. The near-death newborn was found in the morning after it had fallen into a gully with shallow water. Here is his technique: Lay the calf on a bed of clean bedding or blankets, then fill about five 1-gallon jugs with warm water (110 to 115 degrees) and place them around and against the calf, then cover the calf and bottles with bedding or blankets. The calf will warm up gradually; and he reported that his calf was standing up in an hour or two, and back to normal the next day. Another farmer reported his success using the Poly Dome calf warmer -- they look like an enclosed calf hutch, but have a heater in the bottom. He reported that they are large enough to hold 2 to 3 Jersey calves at one time.

Vitamin injections and anaphylactic shock. Not many things send chills of panic through the barn as quickly as a cow going down with anaphylactic shock after a routine vitamin injection. Veterinarians on the list reported cases with injections of Vitamins A and D, E and Selenium, and Vitamin B. It was suggested that it is often a “carrier” that causes the reaction, not the actual vitamin. It was strongly suggested that these events be reported to the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the FDA. It was reported that the “fat soluble” vitamins are most likely to cause a reaction, and one veterinarian suggested giving these injections subcutaneous(SQ) instead of intramuscular(IM) as this route avoids blood vessels and can give you more time if a reaction does occur.

Several producers are working to improve their herds from within through linebreeding. This breeding strategy strives to produce more consistent offspring in your desired traits. A type of “inbreeding” breeds a selected bull to a herd of females, then the same bull to the daughters. Any negative recessive traits should show up at this point. It is an interesting strategy for farmers frustrated with too much genetic variation using crossbreeding, and those who are frustrated with AI bull proofs that don’t consider a grazing or low grain farm system.

Round bale unrollers? A farmer was looking for others who had experience with an unroller for round bales. One producer used a 3-point hitch unroller, and it does unroll the hay for the cows, but it’s not without problems. The spear the bale rotates on can’t penetrate a very tight bale, and it can throw around the rear of the tractor if the bale is not round. One farmer has been using a Case 8610 bale processor and does not recommend it. Another farmer uses a Teale bale chopper for this function, and it does a good job.

This is a good time of year to talk about calf blankets, and one farmer asked if anyone had used the Woolover blankets. Two producers did not like the Woolovers; they seemed stiff, and didn’t last well. The quilted calf blankets from CRI were used by several other producers. They stood up to repeated washings and have lasted for years on these farms. Except for the farmer with a dryer - we learned that the velcro closures cease to work if you put them through the dryer. So wash them and hang them up to dry!